Saturday, March 6, 2010

BUY: Pineapple

I love pineapple. No, wait, let me re-phrase ... I love FRESH pineapple. Can't say I've ever been a big fan of the canned stuff, or pineapple that has been added to a fruit cocktail in sugary syrup.

But fresh pineapple on the other hand - well I could it eat it every day. And sometimes do.

So, this post will focus on the fresh variety for a couple of reasons; 1) Some fine it intimidating to buy and "peel" so I'm hoping to de-mystify this process somewhat and 2) because this fruit is actually extremely versatile, healthy, and fun to have around.

These days, like most other tropical fruits, pineapple is virtually available all year round. In many cases they need to ripen further at home before they are ready to eat, but now that we are getting into Spring you'll find there to be more selection at a more reasonable price. They will also be slightly more ripe this time of year than in the dead of winter.

Any time I'm buying pineapple though, whether at it's peak of ripeness or not, I always search out the one with the best smell. You want the fruit to smell like a pineapple - even if it's still a little green, I've never had any issues with taste if I sought out the best "smelling" option. Then, if it's a little under ripe, I leave it on my counter for a few days. Again, I know it's ready to eat just by the smell. Once the aroma of pineapple starts to fill the room, it's ready to be cut into. Are there more scientific ways ways to determine ripeness you ask? Well, they say if you pull on one of the upper leaves and it comes out easily the pineapple is ripe - so you can go that route too if you like. But personally I like to follow my nose. If it smells like it's ready to eat it most usually is.

Now - how the hell do you get into it? I eat fresh pineapple so often "peeling" it is no big deal anymore, but I've actually talked to many people who say they have never bought this fruit because they just don't know what to do with it. So, here's a video that may help you if you are one of these people. This video was pretty straight-forward in my opinion, and it's pretty much how I go about it, except for one aspect. To remove the core instead cutting around it, I take the whole, peeled pineapple and slice it into quarters. Then, I simply slice down each quarter piece removing the core, rather than cutting around it as I go. But, to each their own. Once you find a method that works for you, it will take only minutes to get to that yummy flesh.

So, what to do with your freshly cut pineapple? More often than not in our house it is simply sliced and eaten. One sliced pineapple will last us two or three days and makes a really great snack. But, it certainly doesn't need to end there! Pineapple adds wonderful flavour to many dishes. One of it's best uses is actually as a marinade for meat! The juice of the pineapple will actually break down and tenderize meat - ideal for chicken and seafood. Also, grilled pineapple makes a unique and elegant dessert. Simply skewer large sections of pineapple, grill until sugars start to caramelize, and serve with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of honey. At the end of a summer dinner party, this will blow your guests away!

As far as nutritional value goes, pineapples are very high in Vitamin C. It's also a good source of manganese. For a full breakdown of the nutritional value of see HERE. This is also where the above picture came from.

So, don't be afraid of a fresh pineapple! Yes, it takes a little more effort than an apple to eat, but adds a whole new dimension to your fruit tray, to your snacks, and to your cooking. Worth the try! You will find yourself to be a pineapple expert in no time!

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